Program Highlights

School Sponsorship Program


In the Tiruvannamalai district we serve, only 15% of students pursue higher education. It's different at Shanthimalai. Of students sponsored by Aruna Partnership through Shanthimalai schools, 100% who graduated from high school have gone on to college. Most are the first in their families.

Again this year, almost all of our School Sponsorship students passed the rigorous state exams required for all 10th and 12th graders:

  • 100% of 10th graders passed
  • 97% of 12th graders passed

These results are remarkable when you consider that our students, who come from very poor backgrounds, are tested side-by-side with privileged students from highly successful, wealthy families in other parts of Tamil Nadu.

Results like this are possible because of dedicated teachers willing to provide the extra coaching the students require, and because of the steady support students receive from their sponsors. Imagine the confidence it gives these children to know they can rely on someone to see them through grade school, high school and college!

15 of our 73 sponsors have been sponsoring children for more than 20 years. Deepest thanks to each of you, and to all of our dedicated sponsors! What a difference your gifts are making!

Parents also play an important role in their children's success. Although parents today are far more eager to educate their children than they were 10 or 15 years ago, many parents are illiterate and don't know how to help. During the past year, Dr. Andreas Bachmann met with regularly parent groups to discuss the children's growth and the challenges they face.

Both of our schools continue to provide a free hot lunch to all students, so they are well nourished and able to meet the demands of the academic day.

Cultural Arts

As part of the regular curriculum, the children study traditional dance and yoga. A new multi-purpose hall is under construction at the Sri Ramana Maharshi School. The two-story auditorium will have a stage and enough space to conduct school programs for all the students.

School construction

Would you like to make a huge difference in a child's life by sponsoring his or her education? Only through education can the circle of poverty and illiteracy be broken.

Sponsored children are selected on the basis of their talents, abilities, motivation and family commitment. We have a new crop of bright young students who need sponsors before the academic year begins in July:

  • 6 full Sponsorships ($420/year), or
  • 12 half Sponsorships ($210/year).

We also urgently need a sponsor for Mahalakshmi Shanmugam, an 8th grader at the Sri Ramana Maharshi School.

Please contact Robin Walden, Sponsorship Coordinator, at for more information about sponsoring.

Thank you!

Professional Training Program (PTP) - an investment in the future

Today a high school diploma is not sufficient to meet the requirements and expectations of employers.

After graduating from high school, most young people in the district are not in a position to continue their studies or get a job or apprenticeship. Their parents, often illiterate or unemployed themselves, are unable to support them financially. Instead, they expect their children to contribute to the family income.

Through Shanthimalai Trust, PTP provides much-needed support to deserving students so they can attend college or receive vocational training leading to successful job placement. Support is awarded based on a student's focus, motivation, and aptitude.


More than 1,100 students have participated in the program since 2006. Many more are waiting to be sponsored.

Currently, 364 students are enrolled in PTP:
102 - Vocational and Paramedical
157 - Arts & Sciences
105 - Engineering and Post Graduate

47% are male (171 students)
53% are female (193 students).

PTP administrators and advisors work hard to cultivate active partnerships with Indian businesses offering internships, training, and help with job placement. Current partnerships include:

  • Big Tech Foundation
  • Murugappa Group
  • Saint-Gobain
  • Saidai Duraisamy's Manidha Naeyam I.A.S Academy
  • UNNATI Skill Centre
  • ICICI Academy for Skills
  • Carborundum Universal Limited (CUMI)
  • Tamil Nadu Agriculture University
  • National Skill Development Corporation
  • MSME Development Institute, Chennai

More than half of recent PTP graduates have already found jobs.

Status of graduates

In 2017-18, the program added 95 new students. 151 are graduating from the program. If adequate funding can be found, PTP proposes admitting 140 new students in 2018-19.

Touch a life, invest in the future, by supporting eager young students in PTP!

Spotlight on Sponsors - Signe Spencer
A Closer Look at the Gift of Education

For more information, please email Robin Walden at

Om Shanthi Project

Poor widows in India are often social outcasts, shunned by their families, blamed by their superstitious communities for their husbands' deaths, and frequently abandoned to die.

The Om Shanthi Project supports widows in two main ways, offering:

  • refuge in the Om Shanthi Homes for elderly widows and other abandoned women;
  • job training and employment for younger widows and destitute women who need to earn a living for themselves and their children.

Om Shanthi Homes for Elderly Widows:

The positive energy at the Om Shanthi Homes is contagious and uplifting. Here are the ladies are on New Year's Day, after sharing songs and dances with their visitors.

Eldery widows

Thanks to generous donations, our urgently needed hospice opened in February. Often elderly, abandoned women are found in such terrible condition they've had to spend days or weeks in the hospital before they're strong enough to come to Om Shanthi. Now they can be cared for in the Om Shanthi hospice home right away, until they're able to move into one of the other houses. In this quiet space, the nurse will also be able to care for women at the end of their lives, without having to move them from their beloved Om Shanthi community.

Hospice house, in progress

The Kati Home, named for a very generous donor from Canada, has one big room with 6 beds (this will increase later), a large bathroom, one room for intensive care, a storeroom for equipment, and an office for the nurse and her helpers. The new building is directly connected to the other two houses, making for easy, comforting contact between the residents.

Hospice house, complete

The wonderfully decorated hospice home was inaugurated on February 11 with a large Ganapathi Puja and a delicious Indian breakfast afterwards.

The big mother cow, who entered the house first with her calf, relieved herself of several piles of dung on the veranda and then a large river of pee inside the house, - a very good omen for the future of the home and a big blessing for its inhabitants! All the workers received gifts, along with deep thanks for their fine work in building this home with such care in a remarkably short time.

There are now 33 elderly residents, and seven young widows or single women who care for them.

Special equipment is still needed, and the costs of living are increasing steadily.

Donated funds are used wisely, and all of the women receive excellent, appropriate care - including nourishing food, medical care, and emotional support. The homes are full of healing energy and joy and love.

We are very grateful for your on-going help for these precious women.

Handcraft Training for Younger Widows

Crafts with young widows

In their Fair Trade training center in Tiruvannamalai, our partner Shanthimalai Handicrafts offers more than 300 widows and destitute women a safe place to work, a steady income, free medical care, and educational support for their children. Many of these women lived in the shadows after their husbands' deaths. Working with others slowly restores their confidence and sense of belonging.

Since most of the women are poor and of low caste, this work is truly a lifeline.

The beautiful handcrafts they produce are well received in the USA. Last fall, Aruna Designs was invited to participate in the first Fair Trade and Local Crafters Fair at the First Baptist Church in Keene, NH. Although we didn't know it, the Fair Committee had pledged to donate 10% of its profit to one of the organizations represented at the fair. To our surprise, Aruna Designs was chosen. With deepest thanks, we gave the funds to the Om Shanthi Widows Project. A little money goes a long way in India; this loving donation helped provide uniforms, pencils and books for the school-aged children of the artisans who create the beautiful handcrafts sold by Aruna Designs.

School gifts

When district schools reopened on June 1, Mr. M. Manoharan and his team at Shanthimalai Handicrafts helped pay school fees, and distributed notebooks, bags and school uniforms to the children of all the previously destitute women who work in the program. Afterwards, Mr. Manoharan invited everyone for a festive meal at a local restaurant.

School lunch

Gatherings like this, along with special excursions lovingly arranged by the Shanthimalai Handicrafts team, help build a sense of community, of being one big extended family. How wonderful this is for women who had lost everything!

Aruna Designs gives every penny we can to support this vital project for these beautiful women and their families. The project is thriving because of people like you, who are ready to reach out and embrace the world.